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Go Back to the Future with Vanquish,
This review is from: Vanquish - Xbox 360 (Video Game)Vanquish is one of the best games of 2010, and a must-have for any fan of shooters.
The gameplay is at once novel and familiar: the controls follow the conventional scheme (left trigger aim, right trigger shoot, etc.), and movement and aiming are well-calibrated (once you get the sensitivity adjusted the way you like it). The game has a satisfying level of difficulty, though there are few spots of teeth-grinding repetition (and frustration), and moving in and out of cover can be annoying (you move into cover when in fact you are trying to leap over an obstacle, for example...not the best outcome when you are fleeing a giant robot showering you with rockets). At the same time, much of Vanquish is refreshingly new, particularly the rocket-slide mechanic. Press a button, and the protagonist rockets across the map, a useful tool when evading the enemy, or just moving from point A to point B. Press the aim button during the slide, and you can slow down time (similar to the "dead-eye" mechanic in Red Dead Redemption) and dispatch robot hordes with satisfying precision. Sliding around is tons of fun, particularly during the boss fights. The visuals are great (I really need to get an HDTV because this game would look fantastic on one). The levels can look a bit monotonous (the entire game takes place on a space station), but the robots offer good variety, particularly some of the larger enemies. The sound design is also excellent. Look on youtube for an IGN video of the first boss fight. It will give you a decent sense of the gameplay and the scale of some of the enemies.
Yet I also love Vanquish for the way it evokes some of the great games of the second-third generation of consoles. Many have pointed out the kitschiness of the cinematic cutscenes, and the incoherence of the backstory. Both are fair criticisms, but they sort of miss the point. Yes, the voice acting is hilariously bad, the villain is a pastiche of numerous villainous stereotypes (effeminate, bald, Russian in skin-tight black suit), and the story throws in a bunch of narrative tropes (Russians attack America, super-weapon in outer space, robots versus human, GIANT robots versus human, and a conspiracy thrown in), but these characteristics still enhance the overall mood of the game. It takes me back to games like Contra, Strider, and Metroid. They were great video games, but they weren't great cinema. Those of us who grew up playing video games in the 80's and 90's (most of them developed in Japan) recall some odd story-lines and strange uses of English. (Need I invoke the "All your base are belong to us" internet meme?) As art, Vanquish is rough around the edges, but as a video game, it is tremendous fun. (And how many games offer a truly compelling narrative? The Halo series, Red Dead Redemption... what else? In any case, it's a short list.)
I only have one gripe: the profanity in the game (which, as far as I can tell, you cannot turn off, though you can switch languages...unfortunately, the audio gives you some important cues). One would think that a game involving the destruction of thousands of robots would not necessitate an "M" rating. And the gameplay alone doesn't require it. The rating reflects some gruesome cutscenes (particularly the opening sequence, which depicts people getting cooked and popped by a microwave weapon) and abundant profanity from the protagonist and his comrades. The language is both superfluous and ridiculous. (One of the marines' favorite epithets for the enemy robots is "A--h---s!" Hilarious.) It seems like what a non-English speaker would imagine is tough, macho language. There aren't many great action games on the PS3 or the 360 that are appropriate for younger players, and this could have been a great option.